Halep happy to absorb power play facing “legend” Serena

This match is a billing for a Grand Slam final, but Simona Halep and Serena Williams will meet in the Australian Open last eight.

Simona Halep waving at the 2021 Australian Open©Tennis Australia/Rob Prezioso
 - Alex Sharp

This match is a billing for a Grand Slam final, but world No.2 Simona Halep and 24th-major chasing Serena Williams will meet in the Australian Open last eight.

“Legend, she is the best, I will try my best because you can only beat Serena if you play your best.”

The women’s draw has been absolutely loaded this fortnight at the Australian Open and the blockbuster matches just keep on coming.

World No.2 Halep completed another stirring comeback 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to gain revenge for Iga Swiatek’s Roland-Garros 2020 demolition. Halep’s reward? A potentially classic quarter-final against Serena Williams.

"You cannot compare Serena with all of us"

The American, edging a blistering three set tussle with Aryna Sabalenka, chalked up her 54th career major quarter-final to tie the all-time list with Chris Evert. However, the Roll of Honour Serena is truly seeking is Grand Slam No.24.

“She's the only one with 23 Grand Slams, so you cannot compare Serena with all of us, because we do not have so many Grand Slams,” said second seed Halep, intent on competing against the rallies on the day, not the Serena aura.

“But when I step on the court, it's just another opponent, and always I'm focused on myself more than I focus against who I play. And I'm trying to give my best to try everything I can to win that match.”

They know, we know what to expect

On paper Williams is the standout favourite with a 9-2 head-to-head, however their most recent meeting was ‘that’ Wimbledon final. 

“The game, I think it was one of the best in my life. The best day actually of my life,” revealed 29-year-old Halep, reflecting on the flawless 6-2, 6-2 triumph.

“I felt very confident back then. I felt every ball. I felt all the game. But I'm not different mentally from that day. I just think that two matches in a row cannot be the same. But I'm not thinking of those matches.

“I need my best tennis to win against her. I'm ready for everything, to face everything, but I know what to expect.”

Simona Halep during her match against Iga Swiatek Melbourne 2021©Tennis Australia/Morgan Hancock

Simona will expect plenty of firepower, but the Roland-Garros 2018 winner appears comfortable in her own capabilities to snatch away the semi-finals spot.

There is a fearless tone to Simona.

“I also watched a little bit of Serena with Sabalenka today, and there was huge power.

But I'm not scared of the power that is in tennis right now, because I have experience. I played many times with these players, and I beat most of them,” insisted the world No.2.

“I'm confident with my way of playing, and doesn't matter that much the power of the game for me.”

Serena Williams fist pumping during her match against Aryna Sabalenka at the 2021 Australian Open©Tennis Australia/Morgan Hancock

"I still hadn't reached my peak"

The counter punching, the awesome athleticism, sizzling shot making, Serena also had a lot to deal with from the product of Halep’s versatile game.

The 39-year-old swept through the opening three rounds, before having to outgun Sabalenka 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on Sunday.

“Even games that I lost, I was so close to winning. I just needed to play better on the big points. I knew that I could. I still hadn't reached my peak. I was like, ‘Okay, Serena, you got this, just keep going,’ said Williams, zoning in on her first major silverware since 2017.

“I think it's been a lot of players that really could win the title since the beginning of the draw. I think there's so many players that can come out and have won Grand Slams and can keep winning.

“It's good to see. It's good to see that I'm in that mix, too.”

This dynamic, legendary duo are certainly in the mix.